Just returned from a buddies trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, on the southern Oregon coast, and am in recovery from the monstrous winds we encountered. What a scene! Forty, fifty mile an hour winds pelted us almost every inch of the way, knocking our balls and our bodies about like sailboats in a gale. It was an effort just to address the ball, let alone make a stable, consistent swing. But one in our group, 77 year old, 20 handicap, David Tabb, was able to consistently remember to maintain the needed three quarter, relatively slow swing to bore through the wind, maintain his balance, and score a no-lie 87 on a very tough Coore and Crenshaw designed Bandon Trails, and follow that up with another score in the upper 80s on Tom Doak’s rolling, undulating masterpiece Pacific Dunes the next day. David’s rounds were inspiring to the rest of us, with dead straight, fairly long drives, low trajectory hybrids out of links land traps, run up chips on difficult greens, and impressive lag putts that insured his pars or bogeys. He had practically no big numbers that could have derailed his rounds. He even parred Par 3, #11 at Pacific Dunes, right by the ocean, into a howling gale of 50 mph (we know that because sand blows out of bunkers at that wind speed!). He took four extra clubs, a 7 wood, to bore through that wind and land the ball about 20 feet short of the pin. I, on the other hand, was so rattled by the wind’s force, that I lost my balance on the tee and hit two miserable scuffs into the gorse in front of the green. My score: 8. I take my hat off to David and declare him A Mindful Golfer of the Year, an example of an older golfer, relatively at peace with himself, who can adapt his game to the most trying conditions and come out a winner. Impressive.
The overall experience of golf at Bandon is one of deep appreciation for this game that tests us so completely. It’s a golf resort like no other, I believe, completely devoted to this ancient game as it was meant to be played. And, yet, it remains an upscale resort, complete with five excellent restaurants, five top rated golf courses, wonderful grounds, with walking trails to a wild ocean beach and through the forests and ponds on property, constantly circulating shuttle buses to eliminate the need for a car, a world-class practice center that includes free high quality range balls, chipping, sand, and putting areas (although the morning winds made it very difficult using these open areas), and a nine hole practice golf course. The property also includes a competitive 18 hole putting green called the Punchbowl, modeled after a similar green at St Andrews, a basement bar where you can enjoy a whiskey and a legal smoke, a hot tub jacuzzi to sooth your aching muscles after a round, pro/gift shops, a comfortable library/bar overlooking the 18th green at Bandon Dunes, spacious rooms with high pressure showers, some equipped with tubs with jacuzzis, and some of the nicest, most considerate staff I’ve ever encountered.
You are honored not only as a golfer at Bandon, but as a human being, no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or age you may be. And I saw all of the aforementioned being treated with dignity there. There was even a family at the pub for dinner with mother, father along with their brood of Caucasian, African, Asian, and African American children all enjoying their meal, well behaved, in harmony, and very well treated by staff. It was the very best of what is possible in this country of ours.
This kind of attitude of acceptance spawns a culture of higher consciousness at Bandon that I have seldom seen elsewhere. At night, preparing for sleep, all was quiet except for the night winds blowing through the trees. In the restaurants and bars, the volume of conversation was restrained. In the co-ed hot tub, people talked of their golf experiences and where they came from. Even the waitress who served us at Pacific Grill over the Pacific Dunes clubhouse felt so comfortable with our group as to share her remarkable life journey up to that point in her 22 years, holding us all spellbound at her openness, her courage, and her insights into living as a woman, raised by foster parents in Pittsburgh PA, striking out on her own like the pioneers of old, hitting the trail west, searching for a new life. She was downright inspiring for our foursome, and will be remembered fondly for years to come.
You might be thinking Bandon is paying me for this homage. That is not the case. I love this place deeply and consider it one of the best golf resorts in the world. As a journalist with a golf book to my credit, they have given me a media discount on my golf fees, and for that, a shout out to Director of Communications Mike Chupka for his kindness and consideration. They are not even carrying my book in their gift shop, as folks who come to Bandon are not so much looking for books to buy. They, as our group, are looking to leave the workaday, freeway, rush-about world to enjoy links golf by the wild, beautiful Pacific Ocean. They are looking to find respite, to rejuvenate, to recharge, to regain perspective, to focus on a little dimpled ball and all the elements in the way of launching that ball to a desired landing spot.
Bandon can also heighten a connection with nature, if we allow it. With those winds, and rain part of the year, it forces us to turn our attention to nature and deal with it in ways we usually insulate ourselves against. Golf anywhere can do that, which offers us a chance to return to our roots, to our relationship with the land and the elements that are constantly shaping this wonderful planet of ours.
Golf too offers us the opportunity to connect with people on a much deeper level than social media could ever accomplish. Taking an occasional buddies trip–this time with David, Ed Biglin, and his son Noah–is a bonding experience that is often enriching and unforgettable. It certainly has been for me.
RIP the SF Bay Area’s Sandy Tatum, a former USGA President, and great friend of golf. Died this past weekend at 96 club swinging, golf loving years of age.